A few more Words
Sorry I couldn't get back to this simply luscious discussion of words sooner.
Since I think I (along with Bob and James Sennett) started this thing, I
probably now have an obligation to get back in. First of all, Bob beautifully
defined our position in a posting of last night. Ditto to what he said. The
problem, I think, is that we have to walk a very fine line between inappropriate
word studies and Lexicology proper. I am a Semitist by trade, and very
frequently have to "disambiguate" a word in the OT by recourse to a cognate
language. When a word occurs only once in all of Hebrew literature that is the
only thing we can do. This is the use of what Bob referred to as the much wider
context which we have to go to when dealing with "dead" languages. The
difference is that we should go to a cognate language only when the context
doesn't disambiguate the word (I'll admit I never saw the word myself before
this discussion). I would never want to see what the Arabic cognate is as a
means by which to learn "more about the word". This is what I see "word studies"
doing. In a word study it seems one hopes to import something new into the
passage from another instance of the word.
If a word is ambiguous (and in my usage that means not fully understood) and the
passage in which it occurs doesn't seem to offer the meaning, It would be
necessary to look elsewhere for help. However, this would be done to elucidate
the word in the ambiguous passage, not to learn something about the word which I
would then attempt to apply everywhere. I'll give an example of this which I am
sure will spark a lively debate in itself.
In the "Words of Institution" as they are found in 1 Cor 11 and Luke 22, we find
the word anamnEsis, "remembrance." The word actually only occurs twice, in these
two parallel passages and in Heb 10:3, "In these things [the sacrificial system]
there was a "remembrance" of sins every year."
In the Institution passage, I argue, the word is "ambiguous", that is to say, I
don't think the passage itself clears up exactly what it means to "do this "eis
tEn emEv anamnEsin". Here is where I think the "Word Studier" and the
"Lexicologist" part ways. What is the next place to go to in order to elucidate
the use in the Institution narrative? I believe the word studier would answer
first, other instances in the NT. The New Testament, however, is really an
accidental collection. I would look at the hebrews passage, but I don't think it
does much. We could tell from our Little and Scotts that the word means
"remembrance", as it seems to in Hebrews. We need a wider context in which to
find uses. I find it in the LXX rendering of Lev 24:7. In this passage we read
(as the Hebrew reads) "And you will place on the row pure incense, and it will
be along with the bread as a "memorial offering (azkarah)", a fire offering to
the LORD." The word which renders azkarah in the LXX is anamnEsis. "as a
memorial offering," "eis anamnEsin". For these words to be put in Jesus' mouth
while he is instituting a ceremony involving bread, the Leviticus passage
provides the very closest context in which to understand the phrase. This is
solidified by Paul's use not only of the anamnEsis wording, but a further
reference by him to the Lord's Supper as "Table of the Lord" (trapezE Kuriou).
This phrase only occurs in the LXX rendering of Malachi 1:7 where the "Table"
again has a firm sacrificial referrent (the Malachi text, incidentally, is the
Didache's proof text for the Eucharist, which is there as well seen
sacrificially) "Do this in memory of me", then, means, "Do this as my memorial
Is this all a word study, the likes of which I have spoken against? I don't
think so (and I hope not). What I sought out to do was elucidate an utterance,
to use Bob's terminology. In fact, what makes this different from a word study
as I have spoken against them, is that I do not believe every instance of
"remembrance" can tell us about very other. I assert that only a contextually
proper case will elucidate the passage in question. In its first context,
actually, (the Early Church) the passage wasn't even ambiguous. Origen himself
makes reference to the Leviticus passage in this light in a Homily on the Book.
But ambiguation seems to have come with time. I hope this helps.